Report: LightSquared to buy LTE network capacity from AT&T

LightSquared is holding talks with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) to buy network capacity on AT&T's forthcoming LTE network, according to a Bloomberg report. AT&T is the latest carrier rumored to be in negotiations with wholesale LTE provider LightSquared; previous speculation has centered on Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) as LightSquared's most likely partner. 

The report, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said the negotiations were not final and might not result in a deal. Under the deal, LightSquared would pay for access to AT&T's LTE network--which it is launching this summer in five markets--when it needs extra capacity.

Representatives from LightSquared and AT&T declined to comment.

LightSquared inked a reciprocal roaming agreement recently with Cellular South, and has been steadily adding more customers, including Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP). However, questions of how LightSquared's terrestrial network will impact GPS signals continue to persist. The company has been testing its network near Las Vegas to see how it interferes with GPS. A final report on the matter is due to the FCC by June 15.

A deal with AT&T would be notable for several reasons. John Stankey, the president of AT&T's business solutions unit, said last month the wireless industry is not large enough to support multiple wholesale providers--namely Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and LightSquared--and the two would be better off if the market consolidated.

Additionally, AT&T has used LightSquared as a foil in its defense of its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, arguing that LightSquared represents a legitimate competitive threat, even though LightSquared has yet to deploy service. LightSquared plans to launch commercial tests in 2011 and commercial service in early 2012, and to cover 100 million people with LTE by the end of 2012. Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs, said the company expects its wholesale customers to begin launching sometime in early 2012.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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